By George Coucounis
The principle of equality of the inheritance right in Cyprus is safeguarded in the law, which provides for any movable or immovable property given to a child or other descendent during the lifetime of a deceased to be brought into account in reckoning the share of such heir. The deceased who may be a parent is considered to love all his children equally and that his intention was to provide for all of them, unless he left a will providing that any gift or advancement he made when he was alive to any of his children would not be brought into account. The issue is important since it affects the inheritance right of an heir, whether he will receive any share in the estate and how much this will be. Taking into account that the estate is assessed money wise at the time of death of the deceased, the question which can be raised is whether the value of any advancement or gift given to an heir to be brought into account will be assessed at the time it was given to the heir or when the deceased died. This principle does not aim to re-distribute after death the property of the deceased among his descendents, but to assess their inheritance right equally so that no injustice to be made to the heirs who received lower advancements or gifts from the deceased. Therefore, the time to be taken into account when valuing the advancements is the time of death and any heir who received more than his inheritance right is not entitled to inherit.
The above principle and the issue of contribution was examined recently by the Supreme Court, referring to the provision of the Wills and Succession Law (article 51) which states that any child or other descendant of the deceased who becomes entitled to succeed to the statutory portion and the undisposed portion if any, shall in reckoning his share bring into account all movable property and immovable property that he has at any time received from the deceased: (a) by way of advancement, or (b) under a marriage contract, or (c) as dower, or (d) by way of gift made in contemplation of death. Provided that no such movable property or immovable property shall be brought into account if the deceased has left a will and has made therein specific provision that such movable property or immovable property shall not be brought into account.
Article 51 requires from every beneficiary to succeed to the statutory portion or the undisposed portion of the estate, to consider during the assessment of his share any movable or immovable property he received from the deceased at any time. It is clear in the law that for an estate to be distributed, its value must be assessed in money at the time of death of the deceased. Valuing the advancement at the time it was given and not at the time of death, means that two dates will be considered, the one of the advancement and the other of the death. However, the intention of the law is to secure equality of the inheritance right and hence, the time the advancement is to be assessed is the time of the death. Any other approach would be unjust and contradict the law.
Following the above, the Supreme Court held that in order for the share of each heir in the estate left by the deceased to be assessed, the value of the advancements each of the heirs received must be valued at the time of the death and added to the value of the estate. Thereafter, the total of the estate should be divided by the number of the heirs and the advancement will be deducted from the result. Thus, if an heir received more than his inheritance right, he will not inherit anything, but he will not be ordered to return the difference. If however he received less and there is a share to be inherited, he will receive it. Valuations are important in order to establish and assess the inheritance right of each heir and the advancements he received.
George Coucounis is a lawyer and leading partner of George Coucounis LLC, a legal firm based in Larnaca -Cyprus
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.coucounislaw.com | tel.:- 24818288.